Time To Go

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of knowing when to move on, no matter how "impossible" it may seem or how judgy everyone becomes; How I left a life with nothing but my intuition and a determination to stop behaving as if I had no choices. A journey of waking the hell up spiritually and in every other way. Guess what? pretending you're happy isn't heroic, it just creates a false life for yourself and for those around you.

Submitted: October 15, 2016

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Submitted: October 15, 2016

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Knowing When It's Time To Move On

 

 

AWAKENING:

Bucked the system lately? Try leaving a marriage or any relationship that everyone assumes is wonderful and “happy” (including your significant other) you’ll suddenly realize how much your life plays in to everyone else’s sense of happiness and security. More specifically, I realized how much other people’s perception of my life played in to how they feel about their own. Pretty crazy, if you ask me and frankly, a responsibility I don’t want. I came to realize more than ever before how much we seemingly look to each other to find stability in our own lives and make ourselves feel secure. 

 

So what makes a 45-year-old woman implode her safe, comfortable life? Trust me, I’ve given this a lot of thought and done some research about what causes seemingly “erratic” behavior. In the end, it’s really nothing mysterious; it’s just that extreme stressors can shake loose all kinds of unaccounted for flotsam and jetsam in our psyches. In my case, the long protracted death of my mother and her endless list of regrets, were the trigger. I wish I could say that over the year and a half that she spent in hospice care I was grief stricken and trying to imagine life without her. While I can’t lay claim to the grief stricken part, I was most certainly trying to imagine life without her. Sounds awful, I know but I’m bad at false sentiment and really, who am I trying to impress? My mother was my boogie man. I didn’t fully realize it until after she was actually dead; how every time I moved I packed her poison and her damage to me with all my other belongings.  

No one was more surprised by my divorce than I was. Sometimes it’s like that with the life changing decisions; they sneak up on you and call you out at the most inconvenient times. I think the assertion that ones character is defined not by the decisions that we agonize over and think to death but by the decisions we make in the moment, is true. Those are the decisions that come from the gut, from the purest instinctual part of us and define who we really are and give measure of our internal integrity. 

In my case, it was the moment in which my husband looked me in the eye and asked me “do you even want to be married anymore? Don’t you even want to try to fix things?” The temptation to evade, deflect and bullshit him was great, if for no other reason than to buy myself some time. Buy time for what, exactly? To talk myself in to a life I knew I couldn’t live anymore so as to spare everyone the inconvenience and discomfort? 

Absolute honesty was called for but I knew that this would mean turning my eight-year-old daughter’s life upside down, it would mean a lengthy battle to explain, justify and defend myself to not only my husband but to our friends and of course it would bring the inevitable suspicion of infidelity. I had no family to run to, no savings, no retirement, serious college debt and a part time job that paid minimum wage. My husband had been the primary provider for eight of the 15 years we’d been married and most everything was in his name or under his control. The financial piece of the divorce picture was terrifying because I had already decided that I wouldn’t go for half of everything like the law entitled me to. There was no pot of gold at the end of this divorce and I really had no idea, at that point, how I would manage to land on my feet.

I was married to a nice, supportive man who was literally one of my oldest friends; we’d gone to middle school together. He made a good living and we lived in a nice home. We had a smart, beautiful little girl. Life was uncomplicated and seemed to hum along without much effort from either one of us. It was the middle class American Dream. Right? So why not just be grateful, buck up and shut up and just figure out a way to keep it all together. Shouldn’t I do it for my daughter’s sake?

Yes, the temptation to evade and bullshit was great but I resisted it and came clean and with the teary but definitive words of “I know I need to leave and you can’t change my mind or me” my family and life as we’d known it was forever changed.  Another facet that required me to be painfully honest was marriage counseling and my ex-husband’s hope that it would be the answer.  I had to make clear that I was willing to go to counseling but only so as to make the end of our marriage as dignified and non-damaging as possible while my ex-husband, the engineer, was holding out for a “fix.” It would have been easy to go through the motions, to attend sessions just to keep the peace but how would that have rated on the internal integrity gauge? This is no time for empty promises to either yourself or your spouse so if you want to try to save the relationship, commit to that effort.

 

FALL OUT:

I won’t lie; it sucked. To be the one who pulls the pin on the grenade just sucks. In the months that followed my husband and I went to all the dark places in our “happy” marriage and we had to own our shit. I had to explain and re-explain that I wasn’t having a mid life crisis or a major temper tantrum or an affair. This was a soul-move, a decision that had been in the making probably since our daughter was born at which point I poured all my passion in to being a mother. This is a very convenient, passive aggressive way to escape your marriage without actually leaving. Best of all, parenthood is seemingly a very accepted and sanctioned way to emotionally leave your marriage while physically staying married, as we found out from countless friends and acquaintances in rather shocking moments of honesty on their part. 

We had to recognize and deal with our respective culpability in ending up in a comfortable marriage but not a particularly happy, fulfilling or healthy one. It was brutal to have to admit that I’d let myself become a passenger in my own life. I had truly lost myself and I was suddenly grieving…….for me, whoever that was.

You see there really was no affair or abuse or major drama or overwhelming issue in our marriage. We were just two nice people who took their eye off the ball and let life happen to them. Our marriage was not rooted in a grand passion but rather a comfortable friendship, which can certainly be made to work with enough denial and self destructive compromise OR when you’re 70…… but that plan wasn’t going to work for 45 year old me, for the next 20 or 30 years. 

The fact that we were parents did not make that plan any more of an option because, for me at least, the integrity piece very much comes in to play. As my daughter’s first and most significant role model I needed to make sure that I actually modeled what I want her to do in situations where there is no easy choice. I wanted to show her that while letting go of people and relationships that no longer fortify you can be the far more difficult choice, it is usually the right choice. Whether your kids see you going to therapy or witness a divorce, at least they are seeing adults take action rather than choose convenience or martyrdom. I have yet to meet an adult who was raised in an unhappy home, who didn’t know that their parents were unhappy and was grateful for having to witness that unhappiness. Worse, they absorbed those bad relationship habits and carried them in to their own lives. 

 

LESSONS LEARNED:

Whether you choose to go to therapy or not, it makes sense to trace and acknowledge your motives for marrying or committing to the kind of person/personality that you did. What were you looking for? What need did they meet at that time? What lacking or loss did they fill?

In my case I loved being with a man who took care of life’s details and of me. He made long lists, completed all the tasks on those lists, followed schedules and followed through on his commitments. These are wonderful traits but I used those traits to fill the empty spot my absent father had left. At its’ most basic, I married my dad. I need to be clear that my ex husband’s personality/traits were not the problem; my unresolved issues and my inability to recognize them for so long were the problem. Unfortunately, when you marry someone with significant issues you will likely become collateral damage when those demons make their inevitable appearance. Of course your children become collateral damage as well in the possible divorce-fallout if you decide to face off with said demons. This is where I have found the big split in philosophy in regards to what is considered “best” for the kids. 

One school of thought is sure that an intact family unit takes precedence over all else, including the individual emotional health of either parent. Anything else is considered “selfish.” The choice that I consider selfish is the insistence on keeping the family together at all cost and teaching your kids to settle. It’s my opinion that more often than not, keeping the family intact is not so much about the purported well-being of the kids than it is simply about the adults being too fearful to be honest with themselves and their spouses. Confronting the issues within ourselves and in a marriage can lead to having to tell the truth and many people just don’t want to go to that scary place. For me pretending to be happy and daily trying to sell that lie to myself, my husband and daughter felt like the far scarier choice. 

For me, the key to taking that first and most terrifying step was having absolute clarity as to why I needed to leave the marriage. Identifying and clarifying my motive was crucial because if I wasn’t solid on that, garnering anyone’s sympathy, support or understanding seemed unlikely. It was crucial to our family surviving this with minimum damage that I be able to look my husband and my daughter in the eyes with conviction and a clear conscience when stating my case. 

This is an excellent time to connect with a higher power, whatever you perceive that to be because making unpopular choices can make for lonely times. People quickly chose sides and it wasn't mine! You find yourself processing out loud when things get really rough and it’s nice to feel that you are actually being heard! It’s also about feeling supported by something bigger than yourself or the situation. It’s about your spiritual connection to your higher, wiser self as much as it is to some unseen spiritual realm. Your intuition is your most powerful ally and when you make any kind of radical life change, you want access to that power. You are experiencing the death of a marriage, of a way of life and scariest of all, you are experiencing the death of the version of you that brought you to this point.

The power of the Universe and living the basic principles of compassion, connectivity, positive thought, gratitude and manifestation sustained me and has now become central to my day to day life. 

 

Leave before you are tempted to have an affair because once you cross that line, a graceful exit and that integrity thing goes to hell. I’ll always be grateful that I didn’t let it get to that point. I believe that an affair is in the making long before one actually manifests because to betray yourself and the person you have promised to grow old with, to that degree, is no snap decision. You get there a little at a time with the slope getting ever more slippery as the threads of your marriage become more and more frayed and fragile. I feel that to be lonely in a relationship is infinitely more painful than being lonely on your own because your loneliness is magnified by the feeling of being “trapped” or “chained” to a person you don’t feel emotionally connected to.

When you get married you enter in to a contract; it’s romanticized and wrapped in a lot of flowers and tulle but that marriage ceremony is a contractual agreement. When you choose to violate a contract, most would agree that you are ethically obligated to come clean about it and make some effort to rectify things. Why would a marriage contract be any different? It would seem most ethical to confess any wrong-doing and then make an effort to repair things if your heart is so inclined. If you actually choose to terminate the contract earlier than “till death do you part”, like I did, you had better do it as honorably as possible.  Call it karma, duty or just plain “doing the right thing” but how blessed will your new life truly be if you ethically shortcut?

 

Tell your kids the truth of the matter. You don’t need to go in to the details but you need to prepare them for the fallout. Don’t try to soft sell what is the end of life as they know it. It’s difficult and depressing and everyone in the family needs permission to be pissed off, anxious and sad.

Our daughter never saw or heard us fight even though I stayed in the home for four months after I made clear that I was leaving. It was hell on my ex-husband and on me but we didn’t want to rock her world while she was in school so we waited for summer. Due to my mother’s decline and her phone calls at all hours, I was able to move to the guest room with the explanation that grandma’s phone calls were waking up daddy too. Though totally inadvertent, it was possibly the most helpful my mother had ever been to me. I spent that four months crying a lot while taking rambling nightly walks and having long unpleasant chats with my inner demons and my ex. I realized that growing up without anything even resembling a father figure has a definite influence on a woman’s choice in men and that an alcoholic mother in no way helps matters. 

 

I also used that time to lay groundwork with my daughter about the importance of telling yourself and others your true feelings and opinions “so that the truth doesn’t leak out in mean ways or make you so sad that you get sick.” I used her friendship troubles at school as a vehicle a lot of the time. I firmly believe that this groundwork is why she rallied so well when I broke it to her. The week that school let out I took her to the park and told her I was going to divorce her dad. Then I apologized for doing something that was hurting her. I told her the truth, which included being very clear that her father had done nothing wrong. I held her while she cried and absorbed my words. I told her that “momma is having a giant growing pain” and that being her mom was still my favorite thing but I couldn’t be a wife any more. “Isn’t it cool how a lady can be a mom without being a wife or be a wife without being a mom? You have choices and sometimes making choices is really hard,” I told her

 

CHOICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY:

We all have choices and we are all accountable for how we exercise that privilege. That is what my story is about. I did what felt “impossible” and it was exhausting on a cellular level but staying would have had a far worse ending with long-term damage to all of us that I don’t even want to think about. 

You have a right to make a choice that might fly in the face of convention and of what everyone else thinks you “should” do or needs you to do to preserve their own reality. You will stumble; have bad days, say too much, say too little, cause hurt because you are hurting. However, as long as you make every effort to act with integrity and good intention, the journey will be arduous but you’ll emerge more whole than you may ever have been in your life. 

Part of being able to emerge whole and self-actualized is to have acted as kindly as possible in the midst of being the actual cause of the demise of your family unit. Sounds kinda crazy but it’s possible. When my ex husband and I were in the eye of the storm, at our ugliest and most adversarial it was tempting to get lost in the emotion, give way to all the nasty things I wanted to say in the heat of battle. I resisted and allowed him to say what he needed to without retaliating the vast majority of the time. Why? Because I was the cause of his hurt and he had a right to express that and while I did fight back when occasionally he seemed to go too far, I largely let it go. I did it by keeping my eye on the big picture and by reminding myself that this ugliness was an inescapable part of the journey out of my marriage. 

 

I’ve learned that endings can be almost more important than beginnings…..because they are the foundation of the next beginning. There are two ways to leave a relationship; running away in the dead of night with no intention of learning anything from the union and respecting the time shared or you walk, in the light of day and offer the courtesy of conversation and shared grieving over something forever lost. It matters how we exit a marriage, a love affair, a partnership or a friendship. Anything that requires emotional investment deserves a proper closing and an honoring of all the energy and emotion given freely by the people involved. Yes, this kind of exit comes at a price because integrity doesn’t give you super powers or grant immunity from pain, if anything it may actually intensify it. You see this kind of conscientious, intentional, soul rocking shift is nothing less than a spiritual awakening and those aren’t meant to be easy. 

In the midst of that four-month holding pattern, while waiting for the school year to end, I physically manifested symptoms of my emotional detox. At one point, I lost so much hair I feared I might actually be going bald. I became hypersensitive to the incessant noise of television and largely stopped watching. I couldn’t even get myself to log in to Facebook most of the time, let alone engage. Having repeated discussions with random people about what was happening was not appealing so I withdrew from all but two or three close friends. I developed a horrific case of eczema that lasted for two months and forced me to wear long sleeves most of the time. Actual restful sleep was a lost luxury. I lost 30 lbs. not due to lack of appetite but a largely unconscious change in diet and a need to exercise due to the stress. I do think that a couple of pounds were shed in pure water weight in the form of tears. Did I mention the many random, seemingly inexplicable bouts of crying? 

I’ve dubbed it my “fire walk.” Telling the truth is a cleansing process. There’s an alchemy to it that is truly transformative, maybe not pleasant and certainly not easy but transformative on a spiritual level. Telling the truth will often bring about total destruction but when coupled with the desire to get emotionally healthy and to do what is best for everyone involved, it will bring only growth.

Perhaps the only thing more important than how you choose to exit a relationship is how you choose to remain in one.  I’ve heard it said that every choice we make, no matter how seemingly complex or “impossible”, is rooted in either love or fear; Just two very primal emotions. Which emotion guides your daily relationship choices? I finally figured out that fear was what had been ruling me for several years. It’s easy to camouflage fear of change with the assertion that we are staying in a relationship or situation because we love people too much to hurt them. Easy sell, right? You get to stay safe and unchallenged while patting yourself on the back for being so self-sacrificing. 

While the lack of internal integrity is certainly an issue, interpersonal integrity is as well in that you are not only lying to yourself by staying, you are also lying to your spouse and/or children.  It is one thing to choose to waste your own time by living an unauthentic life but in marriage you are also wasting your spouses time who very likely is unaware of your emotional disengagement. My ex-husband certainly was at least on the surface but once I insisted on exploring the dark corners of our marriage, he had to acknowledge that he had no desire to live a manufactured daily “happiness.” You could say it’s a basic matter of respect for your spouse’s time, which, at the very least, is as precious as your own. If they have been good to you and have done their best by you, do they deserve to be fooled or more specifically to be made a fool of? Shouldn’t they at least be enlightened and given the choice of how to proceed? Doesn’t someone who you at one time, promised to love and cherish, at the very least deserve the same courtesy you would offer to a friend?

 

It isn’t as if there will be some cataclysmic event when you choose to play it safe; I coasted along for eight years and could have continued for another eight or more. If you are a parent you will raise your children, engage in the expected dialogue with your spouse, live out the daily minutia of life, grow old and eventually die. No, there is not an obvious external consequence, at least not at first; it’s all internal, gradual and insidious. You may feel unrest but are able to suppress it until maybe you suffer the death of someone close to you or you face a life threatening illness or sudden and extreme financial hardship; suddenly life gives you a hard shove, in a way you can’t suppress. 

With our without a severe stressor, at some point unhappiness, dishonesty and lack of authenticity take their toll and human nature demands a way for those feelings to be released. An affair is of course an obvious choice. You can lose yourself in your job. Then there’s the Internet; a 24-hour escape hatch. Drinking too much wine so as to relieve stress is a running joke between my fellow moms and myself but it’s actually very real. A nightly bottle of wine is a very civilized and accepted way to self medicate without the stigma that hard liquor carries. Antidepressants and anti anxiety meds are the norm and they are not used to actually address the roots of the depression or the anxiety, they are used only to hold back the ultimately relentless tide. My point is that our culture is more adept than ever at numbing, deflecting, ignoring and minimizing our emotions while justifying negative behaviors and generally avoiding not only each other but also, far more tragically, ourselves. 

 

INTUITION AS YOUR GUIDE:

What is intuition? For myself, I have defined my intuition as my higher self, an unbiased, uncompromised version of myself that is immune to the noise of social media, never ending news feeds and the endless and often deafening opinions of others. It is the part of myself that knows, really knows what is best for me and tries to impart that knowledge to my intellect as well as my heart. I think this wise part of myself works in tandem with those powers that some call “God” or “Higher Power” “Universe” or “Spirit Guides” or whatever label works for you. Cloak it in organized religion, if you must but just try opening up your heart and mind and listen, just listen. The label doesn’t matter, it’s your faith, your intentions and your willingness to be guided that matters.

All too often we do not give this readily available wisdom the audience it deserves; we cling stubbornly to the voices of our insecurities, our fears, our cynicism masquerading as “facts” and our sadly worn excuses to stay put, to settle for victimhood rather than see ourselves as brave, capable and worthy. 

I stated at the beginning that I did not take advantage of the very generous divorce laws that entitled me to half of everything, regardless if I helped build up those assets or not. My intuition and newfound spiritual awareness demanded that I play fair and really look at that word “entitled.” Was I really “entitled” to his retirement and other assets? The answer to this question will vary person to person. For me it was a “no.” He had supported the household more than adequately and had paid down my substantial student loans while I stayed home with our daughter. He was not perfect and the divorce had, understandably, not brought out the best in him but in the grand scheme of our 15-year marriage and 25-year friendship, he had been a good man. How I conducted myself would directly come back to me, how I treated my friend and the father of my child mattered a great deal and not just because our daughter was watching. Karma, consequence, reaping what you sow………..again, label it what you want but the idea that you get back what you put out in to the world is a pretty universal concept and the anecdotal evidence is plentiful! 

 

I felt compelled or guided to basically just start walking and to believe that the path would form beneath my feet as I took the steps. I had to do this while not knowing where I was going to live or how I would support myself in the long term. I didn’t even have a car in my name. A less than an auspicious start to my new life but I just knew that I had entered a sort of Karmic deal, if you will. A deal that dictated that if my steps were taken with only the best of intentions, an absence of malice and a sincere hope for everyone’s highest good, my needs would be met. And they have been.  

Because I chose not to financially eviscerate my ex husband he was very cooperative. We hammered out our own divorce settlement; a fraction of what it could have been but enough to help me get started while not so much so as to place an undue burden on him. He let me continue to drive the car I had been driving while married and helped me maintain it until I could buy my own. At one point, he bought me flowers thanking me for being “the best ex wife a guy could have.” Life is alternately tragic and hilarious and we need to try to embrace both. 

Shortly before I told my daughter the news, friends stepped up unexpectedly and offered me their guest house so as to allow me to move out by the deadline that I had set weeks before and had all but given up on. During this time, a good friend and her husband offered to rent their house to me for a fraction of what they could have charged. They were a military family that had been re assigned and needed to leave everything behind for a couple of years. They needed someone trustworthy to lease their fully furnished house to and I needed to be near my daughter and her school so as to make the divorce as painless as possible for her in terms of her day to day life.  My boss eventually managed to put a full time position together for me. 

My mother died a couple of months after the divorce was finalized and as her only heir, I was pleasantly surprised to find that upon the sale of the house, I would make a nominal profit. 

I take the steps, I meditate, I express gratitude for every unexpected “gift” that manifests and I continue to do my best to act from a place of faith, good intention and kindness. Not easy but more than doable. The path has almost seamlessly formed beneath my feet and continues to do so. 

You can’t borrow or steal someone else’s version of happiness any more than you can lend or give them yours. You have to define happiness for yourself and act accordingly. Do it knowing that your time here is limited, that we are here to learn, that your children are watching and that authentic relationships and fulfilling lives are generally not constructed of fear and guilt. Most importantly know how powerful you are and that your life is far more shaped by choice than any other element. Be kind to yourself and to others. Be brave. 

www.claimyourwings.com 


© Copyright 2017 Michele Simone. All rights reserved.

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